Superhero movies have a massive impact on Hollywood culture and have completely transformed the film industry. In fact, several of these blockbusters are excellent action films characterized by their sophisticated fictional constructions, with both sarcasm and style. We love their stories because they allow us to escape reality for a moment and project ourselves as heroes, and all these elements combined explain the fact that superhero action films are Hollywood’s most profitable genre. So let’s take a look at the 20 best superhero movies ever made! Don’t miss #3, #8 and #13!
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#20. Unbreakable (2000)
Yes, many years before the superhero movies filled the theaters, M. Night Shyamalan, the director best known for his 1999 movie The Sixth Sense, already dabbled in the stories of humans with powers. His first superhero film, Unbreakable, was released in 2000 and was the first part of a very successful trilogy, followed by Split (2006) and this year’s Glass (2019).
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Don’t worry! If you haven’t seen it yet, we won’t spoil you anything. But bear in mind that you will be kept at the edge of your seat at all times. The film revolves around David, a man who mysteriously survives a terrible train accident, but as he tries to discover how he emerged unharmed, he learns something extraordinary about himself. Oh, and you cannot miss the memorable performances of the iconic actors Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson!
#19. V For Vendetta (2006)
This is a film adaptation of the homonymous political graphic novel of 1988, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. This dystopian action film follows the life of a young woman who teams up with a mysterious freedom fighter to overthrow a strict totalitarian British regime.
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Without a doubt, V is the most political of all the superheroes included in this list. He sacrifices his life to fight for the rights and freedom of those harmed by the repression of the State, and he encourages the millions of protesters all over the world to use a Guy Fawkes mask to conceal their identity. The cultural and political impact of this work is probably greater than that of any other artistic production of the genre.
#18. Blade II (2002)
Many people say that the second parts of the films are never as good as the original. Well, you should know that many sequels have proven otherwise, so don’t be surprised to see many of them on this list! Four years after the premiere of the first part, the human-vampire hybrid Blade (played by Wesley Snipes) comes back to do what he does best: hunt those creatures down!
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I know what you’re thinking. What’s new? To begin with, the director, since Blade II counts with the directorial work of the Hollywood legend Guillermo Del Toro, who achieved a very entertaining film despite its somewhat redundant plot. The design of his characters was surprising for the time. It also became a horror classic, setting an aesthetic precedent that has been adapted for other productions, both in film and video games.
#17. The Wolverine (2013)
What many expected to become a film full of contradictions, due to the numerous obstacles that the production had to overcome, turned out to be an interesting independent story. What do we have here? Precisely a very personal and intimate story about Logan (starred by Hugh Jackman), probably the friendliest of the X-Men, not to mention the most tortured.
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Director James Mangold and the scrip-writers achieved a brilliant representation of the most human and vulnerable Marvel character, in line with many of the other contemporary superheroes. To those who haven’t seen it yet, we recommend the Blu-ray unclassified extended version of the movie, which contains an additional 12 minutes!
#16. Dredd (2012)
Based on a successful British cartoon from 1977, created by screenwriter John Wagner and cartoonist Carlos Ezquerra, this sci-fi action movie brings Judge Dredd to the big screen again, 17 years after the failed version starring Sylvester Stallone.
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On this occasion, Karl Urban is the one who plays the judge, jury, and futurist executioner. If you’ve already watched it, there’s a high chance you never realized that Urban was the lead character, but don’t feel bad! Unlike Stallone’s version, in this film, we never see the lead character’s face, because he doesn’t take off his helmet at any time.
#15. Iron Man (2008)
Robert Downey Jr went down in history after playing the most charismatic hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, billionaire Tony Stark. Such an honor can only be compared with the love fans have for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine or Heath Ledger’s iconic interpretation of the Joker. And whenever Downey Jr has a leading role, he rules the box office!
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This Iron Man brings nothing but action and adrenaline to our lives. What is his best quality? Well, he is a hero who is always true to who he really is, although fears are always present. As you know, he has no powers but what he does is use his money to buy what he needs to defeat his enemies. Stan Lee, Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau … We really owe a lot to this spectacular cast!
#14. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The history of Captain America is well-known among comic lovers. The truth is that it is almost impossible to imagine a better choice to play this famous American hero other than Chris Evans. His charm, talent, and incredible physique made him one of the most beloved characters on the big screen.
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This sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger shows us a more political Steve Rogers, who must deal with the consequences of absolute power. But that’s not all! The film also counts with the brilliant performance of Robert Redford, the legendary actor famous for The Sting (1973) and Out of Africa (1985).
#13. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
As you may have noticed, Marvel doesn’t give up on its efforts to make superhero action films the most popular genre in contemporary Hollywood cinema. And that’s the main reason why most of this list comprises of Marvel films! This time, we bring you this hugely entertaining and recent success, which is brand new in its style and aesthetics.
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The film is based on one of Marvel’s lesser-known comic franchises, which appeared for the first time in 1969. The Guardians of the Galaxy films are more comical compared to other Marvel classics, maybe because the gang is made up of a genetically altered raccoon with superior intelligence, an anthropomorphic tree, a green-skinned alien and Chris Pratt … an expert conflict mediator!
#12. X-Men 2 (2003)
In the year 2000, the first film adaptation of X-Men was released, and it was a whopping success. Thanks to Bryan Singer’s brilliant directorial work, the film exceeded all expectations and marked the beginning of the first of three trilogies. Can you name all 9 X-Men films in less than ten seconds?
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But out of all the X-Men and Wolverine films out there, why do you think we chose this sequel? In this film, our favorite mutants find a way to join forces with the Magneto’s Brotherhood to save their race from Colonel Striker and his military group. The film not only depicts the team’s struggle to protect the world but above all their struggle to be accepted by society.
#11. Watchmen (2009)
The 1986 graphic novel Watchmen, written and drawn by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, is often considered as high literature. Therefore, when they announced that a film adaptation would be released, fans didn’t know what to expect. Would the film remain faithful to the original literary work?
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To everyone’s surprise, the 2009 superhero film Watchmen managed to retain much of the darkness and cynism that characterizes the graphic novel. Directed by Zack Snyder and starred by Patrick Wilson and Carla Gugino, I promise this classic won’t deceive you.
#10. Danger: Diabolik (1968)
Danger: Diabolik is of history’s greatest superhero classics. Written and directed by Mario Bava, the film is based on the famous Giusanni sisters’ Italian comic cartoons from the 60s. Starring John Phillip Law and Marisa Mell, this film accurately represents the free and revolutionary spirit of that decade.
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Why is this Italian production so attractive? On the one hand, it counts with a highly seductive, cunning and ingenious thief who we all love, mainly because he manages to steal from the corrupt state and the wealthy gangsters. But on the other hand, the film was made in a rather Kitsch style, resulting in an extravagant and entertaining storyline that can captivate anyone’s attention.
#9. Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Burton is one of the most successful and talented directors of our time. After all, who doesn’t love his movies? Furthermore, his influence on superhero movies is undeniable. His first superhero film, Batman, was released in 1989 and soon became one of the greatest blockbusters ever. Shortly after, he directed the sequel, released in 1992.
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In Batman 2, Michael Keaton repeats the role of Bruce Wayne / Batman, Michael Gough returns as Alfred Pennyworth, and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon. Christopher Walken is added to the cast as Max Shreck, a corrupt businessman who allies with The Penguin (played by Danny de Vito) to take over Gothic City. But it’s not just the two of them since Michelle Pfeiffer appears as Catwoman to complicate the existence of the masked hero.
#8. The Incredibles (2004)
Directed by the American Brad Bird and jointly produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios, this family comedy is the best superhero animated film out there. All the characters are adorable, including the eccentric villain Syndrome.
Wait a second… why would anyone say that the movie’s villain is adorable?
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Well, his hostility towards superheroes is born out of frustration. His former identity was that of Buddy Pine, a boy who loved Bob (Mr. Incredible’s real name). After being rejected by him, Buddy dedicates fifteen years of his life planning on how to take revenge on Mr. Incredible. What is his plan? He aims to become a new superhero and sell magic products for everyone to become superheroes too because if that were the case, the Parr family would no longer be so special. Not a bad idea, actually.
#7. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Of all the film adaptations of the Spider-Man comics, why did we choose Spider-Man 2? We can’t help but empathize with Peter Parker, who suddenly feels that being Spider-Man is a burden he isn’t quite willing to bear. Unlike the first film, Parker seems to be no longer ready to assume the responsibilities that his unexpected superpowers carry.
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So in this emotional sequel, our hero quits the suit for a moment while one of the most memorable villains of the genre, Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina), threatens the lives of the people of New York. Please don’t miss the opportunity to see those horrifying tentacles!
#6. Darkman (1990)
Darkman features a charismatic protagonist bent on revenge, and whose burned face makes him one of the spookiest characters of all superhero films. What makes this movie so great is its agile rhythm, excellent special effects, and brilliant makeup. On top of that, the excellent soundtrack by Danny Elfman and its pure comic aesthetic made this underestimated melodrama a cult film.
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The story is based on the life of Peyton Westlake, a scientist who works on the creation of synthetic prostheses to replace the damaged skin of human beings. One day, Peyton’s laboratory is set on fire, and although everyone believes that the scientist was killed by the accident, he secretly survives but ends up disfigured. His only immediate obsession is to end the lives of the people who ruined his life.
#5. Mystery Men (1999)
Many people believe that this anti-heroic comedy inspired the famous franchise Guardians of the Galaxy, but I should tell you that this rumor is absolutely false. This famous comic series, edited by Dark House Comics, is nothing more than a melodrama starring a group of losers. At the same time touching and hilarious, Mystery Men instills the importance of teamwork and surely manages to make the audience empathize with all the characters.
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Who are the main characters? Well, we have Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious, who each time he gets angry he releases an abominable force – or so he says; William H. Macy as “The Shovel”, who uses a large wide shovel as a weapon which he believes to be undefeatable; and Hank Azaria as The Blue Rajah, an expert in cutlery, or rather, in forks, whom his friends criticize for not throwing something more useful as knives or daggers.
#4. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)
Even though Guillermo del Toro won his Oscars with Pan’s Labyrinth, fans have come to love another of his masterpieces. Contrary to what everyone had imagined, the sequel to the mentioned film reached the top of the box office. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is famous for its aesthetic style that moves away from the gloomy and sordid tone of its prequel.
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The plot of the movie is based on one of our hero’s most deeply rooted fears. As a child, his father had told him about some magical creatures that had destroyed almost all of humanity and since then were confined in the woods. However, these evil creatures, known as the Golden Army, return to life… but they didn’t expect to face Hellboy!
#3. The Dark Knight (2008)
After the launch of The Joker in October this year starring Joaquin Phoenix, the whole world can’t stop talking about DC’s most famous villain of all time. While many actors have played the role of Joker, fans and critics seem to agree on the fact that the best performance ever was achieved by late actor Heath Ledger in the film The Dark Knight.
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Many people ignore the fact that when director Christopher Nolan chose Heath for the character, he was indeed the only person who believed in him. Not even his brother Jonathan, screenwriter of the film, supported that casting decision. However, nowadays, nobody doubts that Ledger did an extraordinary job. In fact, he won an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and an SGA award. Beat that!
#2. The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers is a fantastic action film that has both Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hulk as its main characters. The movie was critically acclaimed and it became the third highest-grossing film of all time and the highest-grossing film in 2012 worldwide. This time, the team of superheroes has the difficult task of facing Loki, who plans to flood the world with evil monsters from outer space.
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The film is an ambitious project that integrates different Marvel figures, each of which has already had its own independent movie. But in spite of their egos, these characters work as a team and have good chemistry on screen. The story is enticing, don’t miss it!
#1. Superman II (1980)
We left one of the most enticing films to finish this list. Superman II is the sequel to the 1978 Superman movie, a masterful story based on the homonymous DC Comics character, starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, and Jack O’Halloran.
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Believe it or not, both movies were filmed at the same time. Tensions arose between Richard Donner and the producers, so the filming of the sequel stopped for several months and continued later. Following the launch of Superman in December 1978, Donner was fired and replaced by Richard Lester, who fortunately captured the wonder of superheroism more than any other in this second installment.